Rhino 3D to Autodesk Inventor: Sheet Metal / by Daniel Giuffre

Interoperability between design modelling platforms is a significant challenge for most practitioners operating at the cutting edge of the AEC industry. No single software is able to cover the increasing breadth of fields and sectors that designers must traverse in their day-to-day practice. It is imperative, therefore, that seamless workflows between software platforms are developed in order to maximise efficiency and productivity, whilst minimising time wasted with manual conversion or data clean-up processes. With optimal interoperability workflows, we can ensure that we use the right tools for the right job at all times.

The design of sheet metal is one that requires the calculation of the material elasticity that must be considered in the bending process. Solid modelling software such as Autodesk’s Inventor performs this calculation through built in sheet metal functions, however design modelling of nonstandard geometry often occurs in openNURBS-based modelling software such as McNeel’s Rhino 3D.

The lack of integration between designers and fabricators, skill-sets and software can often result in inefficiencies throughout the design to fabrication workflow. The separation of design and shop drawings leads to a break in workflow processes, which then typically requires ‘double-handling’; a costly and inefficient process. Denmac saw an opportunity to increase its design to fabrication efficiencies and engaged if/LAB to assist in creating new workflows and processes to better meet the changing requirements of the construction industry.


Denmac is an innovative fabrication company in Perth, WA, with a history spanning over thirty years. They are a pre-eminent construction contractor that combines innovation, manufacturing, product delivery and customer engagement. Denmac offers a wide range of services in complex fabrication and design with a focus on quality and a brand promise “no matter what it takes, Denmac will deliver.”

Denmac were exposed to the benefits of computational design workflows through having worked closely with if/Lab on several public artworks around Perth. In accordance with their business philosophy and a realisation of the current shortcomings of the industry, they engaged if/Lab to assist in finding efficiencies through automation and digitisation of their internal processes to better meet their client’s demands.

Workflow Diagram

if/LAB, in collaboration with Denmac, have developed a workflow to facilitate the production of required fabrication documentation from design models by automating the link between Rhino 3D and Inventor. The procedure creates laser cutting files, part models, and shop drawings, and integrates changes back into BIM environments. This process produces accurate unfolded sheet metal documentation allowing for the effects of material elasticity.

Through automation, this workflow reduces the required lead time as fabrication specific modelling can occur from the design model and be integrated back into BIM projects at an increased level of detail. By merging fabrication and design documentation this workflow allows for feedback and adaptability from the inevitable onsite changes, making the fabrication process faster, cheaper, and more accurate.

Denmac: https://www.denmac.net.au/